Opposition Councilor Says She Is Being Obstructed From Fulfilling Duties

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The Candlelight Party holds a march in Phnom Penh on June 3, 2022. (Keat Soriththeavy/VOD)

An opposition commune councilor in Battambang says she is being obstructed from doing the work she was elected to perform, with the ruling-party commune chief bringing in someone from the outside to head a committee she believes she should be running.

Roeurn Srey Noy, the second deputy chief in Kors Kralor district’s Kors Kralor commune, told VOD that she was supposed to head a committee on women’s and children’s affairs as part of her responsibilities in her newly elected position. However, another woman named Kha Seila was instead nominated to chair the committee via a Koas Krala commune hall, she said, a decision that is confirmed in a letter dated July 29.

Srey Noy alleged that the commune chief, Hong Sophat, was leading local officials to circumvent her, and that Seila was not elected to any council position in the June 5 election.

“In that meeting, they let all [the local officials], the commune chief and district hall officials [vote], and then they nominated that person and they asked if there was anyone who disagreed,” she said.

However, Sophat, the commune chief, argued that hiring an external person to chair the committee was not illegal.

A decree on establishing women’s and children’s affairs committees in communes specifies that the committee is to be chaired by the commune chief, with the second deputy commune chief serving as vice chair. The decree also states that a second deputy commune chief who is also a woman may elect another person with specialization in the subject to be a permanent member of the committee.

The second deputy commune chief generally supports the commune chief in administration, social work, public services and public order, while the first deputy chief primarily assists in financial affairs, according to the Law on Commune Administration.

Vong Runni, deputy of the Candelight Party’s women’s movement, said her group was investigating the case, but she felt it was not unusual for ruling party leaders to circumvent female opposition members in the second deputy position. 

“We will try to find all solutions to discuss what we should do if we see that our second commune councilor tried to advocate, but [her peers] don’t respect her like that,” Runni said.

“We have a plan to meet the leaders to find out what we should do to help her. But we have not had a deep discussion yet because we want to investigate a bit more at this time.”

Korn Savarng, an official at elections NGO Comfrel, spoke generally that commune council leaders should take steps to resolve issues over division of work.

“This commune administration can file a complaint to the Interior Ministry to check the duties and tasks relating to managing the commune administration [to see] why there is no equal division of duties and tasks as is regulated by law. So at this point, work need to be done to transfer it correctly,” Savarng said.

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